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January 23, 2008

Not Everyone Porks Up

The Las Vegas Review-Journal notes that the excuse used by members of Congress for pork-barrel spending doesn't add up, like almost every Congressional budget. Politicians claim that their constituents demand the projects that they bring back from Washington, but as the LVRJ notes, it isn't the constituents asking for the money. The federal dollars usually wind up supporting -- other politicians:

Lawmakers who continue to indulge in earmarks -- self-described fiscal conservatives among them -- argue that if they don't bring some money home for their constituents, other states are lined up at the trough to steal the leftovers.

But the representatives and senators who've stopped bringing home the bacon aren't hearing complaints from voters. In fact, many enjoy the support of citizens tired of seeing tax dollars squandered on projects that have little merit. These taxpayers are content to let other states bear the guilt of such extravagance, if such sacrifices bring the country closer to fiscal responsibility and accountability.

No, most of the squealing these lawmakers hear comes from ... state and local governments, the biggest beneficiaries of federal pork.

Members of Congress, who spend most of their time in Washington, don't come up with ideas for earmarks on their own. They're bombarded with pork requests from state legislatures, law enforcement agencies, public colleges and universities and municipal governments.

This exposes one of the dirty secrets of the earmark process. If one looks through the earmarks carefully, a large percentage of them go to other politicians. It feeds the system that produces the candidates and ensures that incumbents maintain their power base in their home districts and states. Failure to feed the machine could result in an end to the career in Congress.

The Review-Journal mentions several Congressmen and Senators who have rejected pork for their districts and states, including Jeff Flake and Tom Coburn. Neither of them earmark funds at all, and neither does my Congressman, John Kline (R-MN). He converted to the porkbuster cause after the 2006 election taught him and the rest of the GOP a painful lesson.

Not that conversion has been easy. The LVRJ notes that our district has its share of unhappy local politicians who counted on getting easy money from Washington. The Scott County board wanted some cash for a road in their area, but Kline refused to acquiesce. Jon Ulrich, one of the commissioners, says that he wanted Kline to work within the system while trying to change it -- or, in other words, hypocritically earmark funds while railing against earmarks.

Kline's not a hypocrite, unlike others who have no problem complaining about extra-Constitutional federal action while larding up their home districts. We need more Republicans like Kline, and a GOP leadership that recognizes the risks they take. That's why many of us continue to call for Jeff Flake to get the open seat on the House Appropriations Committee -- so that the Republican leadership can demonstrate that they want to end the hypocrisy as well.


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